Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Synopses Made Easy

Maven Jacqueline Barbour Everyone wants to be on a postage stamp, but nobody wants to die. --
Standard White Jesus by Timbuk 3


What does that have to do with synopses? Nothing, really. I just love that line.

Actually, I do think it relates to the topic at hand. Because everyone wants to be published, but nobody, it seems, wants to write a synopsis if they can possibly avoid it.

Now, of course, you can get published without a synopsis in some cases (my publisher, Cobblestone Press, doesn't require them, in large part because the one of the owners, Deanna Lee, hates them). But let's face it, if you want to hit the big time, chances are pretty good that somewhere, sometime along the way, you're gonna have to write a synopsis.

What is it about the synopsis that strikes dread and horror into the hearts of otherwise stalwart warriors of the written word? I wish I had an answer for that, but one thing I know is that I've been much less angst-ridden about writing synopses since I attended a local RWA chapter meeting and was provided with a "template" for writing a synopsis. (I should add at this point that, to my knowledge, this template is not under copyright and has supposedly been floating around the industry for "a long time," whatever that means. At the same time, I in no way claim to have originated it, because honestly, I'm just not that smart.)

Now, this template is romance-genre specific. If you're writing a mystery or sci-fi or horror, it probably won't do you much good. But for romance and sub-genres thereof, it's almost worth its weight in gold, especially if you have trouble figuring out what you need to cover in the synopsis and what you can leave out.

The Template

Hero (or heroine's) primary goal, motivation, and conflict.

Heroine's (or hero's) primary goal, motivation, and conflict

H/H come together and clash (usually as a result of mismatch in their goals)

H/H soften toward each other, but then are reminded of why their relationship can never work out.

H/H begin to see a way they can fit one another into their lives, but a catastrophic event occurs and all seems lost.

H/H resolve all internal and external conflicts and live HEA.

Add the following events where appropriate:

* First kiss

* Consummation of the relationship

Using the Template

When you see it all written out like this, it seems almost ridiculously obvious. I know when I first read through it, I thought, "Duh, I knew this." But it turned out that there was something about actually plugging in sentences and paragraphs to respond to those prompts in the order they occurred in the template that made it a lot easier to follow my plot thread through the romance instead of the other way around.

So, if you find synopses a painful exercise in self-abuse (ahem, not that kind of self-abuse!), try using the template and see if it doesn't make it just a little easier.

Last but Not Least

Don't forget the 2008 Maven Valentine CYOA starts Feb 1. Vote for the story time period on the left, and get ready to choose your own adventure!

As always, the Manuscript Mavens would like to thank CYOA for graciously letting us borrow the "Choose Your Own Adventure" name. Choose Your Own Adventure is a trademark of Chooseco LLC, Waitsfield, VT. Check them out at cyoa.com. The trademark has been used by permission herein. Thanks, CYOA!

4 comments:

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Bill Clark said...

'Ray for the template! You make it sound so easy!

Carrie said...

Nice template! I think one of the key parts to a romance synopsis is not only showing the action of the story (the external) but also the internal. I think sometimes it's easy to get focused on "they did this and this and this" that we forget to talk about how the characters felt and grew.

Great post!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Great template, Jackie, and I can see how I could adapt it - at least in part - to the synopses for my books. Thanks. =o)

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